One of the most successful commercial partnerships in rugby history has been re-established with Heineken having agreed a deal to sponsor the re-branded European Champions Cup.

The Dutch brewers were synonymous with the growth of professional rugby when sponsoring Europe’s top club and provincial competition from the tournament’s inception in the mid-nineties.

That relationship was one of the casualties of what was effectively a coup staged by English and French clubs in their frustration over what they considered to be the disproportionate representation of Irish teams in the tournament’s latter stages.

However, in a season that has seen Leinster win the title for a fourth time, matching the record set close to a decade ago by Toulouse and with overall attendances at matches now passing the one million mark in the past two seasons, as was regularly the case under the previous format, Heineken’s return - having agreed a four-year deal - is the latest evidence of that damage being undone.

As European Professional Club Rugby chief executive, Vincent Gaillard, observed yesterday: “They are steeped in rugby history and inextricably linked with the heritage of European club rugby and we are delighted to be embarking on this journey with their full support."

Heineken’s global sponsorship director Hans-Erik Tuijt struck a similar tone, saying: "It is an exciting time for Heineken to return as the main partner of the European Rugby Champions Cup. The expansion of the tournament to emerging rugby territories (Bilbao 2018) and new cities in traditional strongholds of European rugby (Lyon 2016, Newcastle 2019) provides Heineken with the opportunity to create engaging fan experiences and brings our association with rugby to new audiences throughout Europe.

“Heineken is proud to have had a close association with rugby for over 20 years and we look forward to working alongside EPCR to provide a platform to continue to develop the competition across Europe and beyond."

Live free-to-air broadcasts on Channel 4 next season also have the potential to broaden the sport’s appeal, particularly if viewers are exposed to some of the drama that unfolded during what was the Heineken Cup or, in France, H Cup era…

Heineken highlights:

1999 final – The Good Saturday deal clincher: Less than a year after The Good Friday agreement transformed the island’s politics we witnessed the extraordinary sight of a red-hand bedecked hoardes taking over the streets of Dublin and locals joining the celebrations as, with English teams boycotting the tournament, a first Irish win was recorded, all Ulster’s points scored by a Mason… Simon Mason. Ulster 21 Colomiers 6

2000 semi-final – Ireland buys in: The men of Limerick and Cork had enjoyed many great days against touring teams, but the day which galvanised provincial rugby in the Republic was of a different order as they crossed borders and seas to face the strongest team in Europe on what could hardly be considered neutral territory. Toulouse 25 Munster 31

2001 – Johnno’s Leicester out-flair the French: Party time in Paris as jazz bands welcomed spectators to the popular old Parc des Princes with a team from the French capital in the final and expected to run Martin Johnson’s boring, boring Tigers ragged. Instead, as Italian stand-off Diego Dominguez kicked 10 goals, the visitors produced the moments of magic, scoring all three of the game’s tries. Trailing 30-27 with a minute to go, the last was brilliantly executed as Leon Lloyd was sent in for his second. Stade Francais 30 Leicester 34

2002 final – Back-hand victory: Leicester were leading 15-9, but under pressure when, as Peter Stringer prepared to put the ball into a scrum, it was knocked from his grasp illegally but unseen by the officials, by Neil Back, the Leicester flanker. Arguably remember as being more decisive than it was the sense of grievance generated possibly did Munster no harm in the longer run. Leicester 15 Munster 9

2003 sixth round pool match – Munster’s Miracle: Cruelly beaten in the finals in both 2000 and 2002 Munster had become perennial contenders, failing to reach the knockout stages just once between 1998 and 2014, another key moment on their way to their 2006 and 2008 triumphs coming when they went into their final pool match needing to score four tries and win by 27 points to overhaul Gloucester in the battle for quarter-final places. John Kelly’s 80th minute try gave them a chance. Ronan O’Gara would afterwards claim he did not know his conversion mattered. Munster 33 Gloucester 5

2004 final – Poitrenaud’s Howler: Three minutes to go with the scores tied at 20-20 in the Heineken Cup final and Rob Howley’s grubber kick looked to be comfortably covered by French international full-back Clement Poitrenaud. A moment’s hesitation was all it took for everything to change, the Welshman seizing his chance to touch down in the corner, denying the French giants a fourth victory in the competition. Wasps 27 Toulouse 20

2009 final – The Penalty Miss: First there was Zico, then there was Baggio, then Beckham, then Terry, but in rugby’s footballing code one man stands alone – Martyn Williams. Cardiff had been 26-12 down with 10 minutes remaining and scored two converted tries to take the match into what proved to be a scoreless period of extra time. Tom James had a chance to win it after Johne Murphy missed Leicester’s fourth attempt, but his nerve failed him, however it is the hooked effort by the Wales captain and British & Irish Lion that will always be remembered. Cardiff Blues 26 Leicester Tigers 26 (6-7 after penalties)

2011 final – Comeback Kings: It looked as if it was all over at half-time as Northampton led 22-6. It was all over with 15 minutes remaining, but it was Leinster who had won it, Jonny Sexton scoring 22 points of his own in the third quarter to add to his two first half penalties, while Scotland lock Nathan Hines registered their third try that put them out of sight. Leinster 33 Northampton Saints 22

2012 first round pool match – Unstoppable beats immovable: With three minutes remaining Northampton led 21-20 in a potentially tone setting match. Several minutes later their defence had held through 40 phases of relentless recycling by their Thomond Park hosts when Ronan O’Gara finally decided the time had come to try his luck with a drop goal attempt. His luck, as so often, was in. His side would go unbeaten through the pool stages. Munster 23 Northampton 21

2012 quarter-final – Edinburgh make history: The first Heineken Cup quarter-final staged on Scottish soil saw Greig Laidlaw establish his credentials as a leader of men, scoring as many points as Toulouse could muster among them to see his side home, while Mike Blair claimed their only try. Coach Michael Bradley was sacked at the end of the season and no Scottish team has since reached the semi-finals of Europe’s top tournament. Edinburgh 19 Munster 14